Advocates, lawmakers warn of healthcare cost spike without action by Congress

Prices are rising in all areas for consumers and — if Congress doesn’t act soon —  the same thing can be expected for healthcare costs.

Tax credits, underwritten by the American Rescue Plan, that help people pay for their health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, will expire at the end of 2022, raising healthcare costs for an estimated 230,000 Pennsylvanians, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Congress has the power to extend these credits, preventing the rise in premium costs, but one lobbyist said that it’s unlikely to happen if Democrats don’t use the reconciliation process. 

Antoinette Kraus, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, said she estimates an average of an 11 percent increase immediately in health insurance costs — or roughly $1,000 per year — for consumers, without intervention from Congress.

“This year, or more than ever before, we’re hearing from people whose budgets are being squeezed as costs rise,” Kraus said during a Thursday press call. “And that means they have even less to spend on the cost of their health care than they did before.” 

Kraus’ group, along with the advocacy groups For Our Future PA, Protect Our Care Pennsylvania, and Family Friendly Pennsylvania, organized Thursday’s call.

Roughly 39,000 people could become uninsured in Pennsylvania if the tax subsidies end, the Urban Institute predicted in an April report. The research center also reported that any action from Congress must come by midsummer to “give the Marketplaces, insurers, and outreach programs time to prepare …” 

The American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package signed by President Joe Biden in 2021, raised premium tax credits for state and federal marketplace insurance coverage, and broadened the financial requirements to include more people. These efforts lowered the cost of health coverage for roughly 90 percent of the 374,776 Pennsylvanians signed up through an Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2022. 

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, called for Congress to take action. 

“This was a short term break for so many working class and middle class families throughout Pennsylvania and throughout the nation,” said Boyle, who also participated in Thursday’s news conference. “For about 375,000 people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they will see a dramatic increase in their premiums if Congress doesn’t extend the subsidies, so I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do this.” 

My top priority in Congress has always been lowering costs, especially health care costs,” U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, said in a statement. “The American Rescue Plan’s enhanced insurance premium tax credits saved families $2,400 on average annually and making these credits permanent is another tangible action we must take to lower costs for Americans.” 

These representatives are not alone in wanting to extend the American Rescue Plan subsidies. 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf joined 13 other governors to ask the same of Congress in a late June letter.

“It’s critical that we continue to make affordable coverage as accessible as possible to as many as possible, and I applaud President Joe Biden for his leadership to not only expand coverage as part of ARPA, but also to make it permanent,” Wolf said at the time. “I urge Congress to make these subsidies permanent so that Pennsylvanians can continue to have a better quality of life through affordable comprehensive ACA coverage.”

Not every Pennsylvania lawmaker is on board, however. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has been a vocal advocate against expanding the tax credits. 

Toomey and other U.S. legislators sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Charles Rettig, opposing an IRS proposal to expand the tax credit, saying it would cost taxpayers roughly $45 billion over the next 10  years. 

“This action would further the reach of the federal government into Americans’ daily lives, placing more federal red tape between patients and their doctors,” the senators wrote.  

Jaxon White is a summer intern for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association. Follow him on Twitter @Jaxon__White.



Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by Jaxon White

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